|Publication number||US6449001 B1|
|Application number||US 09/195,781|
|Publication date||Sep 10, 2002|
|Filing date||Nov 18, 1998|
|Priority date||Nov 21, 1997|
|Publication number||09195781, 195781, US 6449001 B1, US 6449001B1, US-B1-6449001, US6449001 B1, US6449001B1|
|Inventors||William W. Levy, Richard A. Powell|
|Original Assignee||William W. Levy, Richard A. Powell|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (16), Referenced by (14), Classifications (11), Legal Events (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/066,384, filed Nov. 21, 1997.
This invention relates generally to video teleconferencing assemblies and processes and more particularly to video teleconferencing assemblies and processes relating to medical, analytical and research applications. The video teleconferencing assemblies and processes relate to computer based services in present time and which include training, diagnostic and repair services for medical equipment as well as to laboratory procedures.
The assemblies of this invention include a host site and a remote site and between which information is relayed via a telecommunication link, such as via the internet, for example. The invention relates particularly to video duplexing (i.e., receiving and sending information concurrently) and is adapted to provide diagnostic services for servicing various research devices, medical equipment and related processes, for example.
Presently, if equipment located at a remote area fails to perform properly, needs servicing, or is scheduled to be tested, a service technician, skilled in a particular art, is often required to travel to that remote location to diagnose the problem, order the parts, and repair and test the equipment. Travel and time considerations make this practice an expensive and time consuming procedure. The assembly and process of this invention overcome these problems and shortcomings and does so in a timely and efficient manner.
The present invention permits a party, such as an operator located at a host site, to directly communicate with a second party at a remote location via a telecommunication link. The telecommunications link may comprise a telephone line, a data line, a satellite connection, the internet and the like. This invention also permits multiple parties at both the host and remote sites to be in direct communication with each other.
The present invention includes the adaptation of a visual and audio recognition system in the medical application at the remote site. The visual and/or audio recognition systems are used with medical apparatus and laboratory procedures at the remote site. The recognition system is monitored at the host site.
The assemblies and processes of this invention permit various services and procedures to be performed between two separated or distant sites. These services include: technical and application troubleshooting, instrument installation assistance, technique monitoring and training, and technical training. Further, this invention may be used for parts replacement assistance, instrument and parts identification, instrument performance verification, staff monitoring, client and staff counseling, and enhancement of sales and service capabilities. Examples of areas in which this assembly can be used include: diagnosing instrument malfunctions, determining misalignment and movement impairments for robotics applications, monitoring fluidic action in medical applications, diagnosing pressure or vacuum malfunctions and mechanical impairments, diagnosing and adjusting electronic circuitry, and diagnosing technical malfunctions of chemical reactions and dilution ratios.
An object of this invention is to provide to industrial, research and medical institutions, and the like, assemblies and processes adapted for dealing with various applications. Preferably, the technical service is available on a 24 hours per day basis. A medical application for the purposes of this invention includes medical apparatus and laboratory procedures. For example, medical instrumentation having robotic equipment, vacuum or pressurized fluid holding components, electronic circuitry, or chemical components or consumables may be monitored by the assembly and process of the invention.
Medical equipment areas and products within those areas for which the assembly and process of this invention may be used, include but are not limited to: Medical Products including cardiac monitors, gamma counters, lasers, peptide synthesizers, autoclaves, EKG, imaging equipment, operating tables, portable X-ray's, and the like; Research/Production products including atomic absorption, DNA extractors, DNA synthesizers, flow cytometers, freeze dryers, gamma counters, HPLC, mass spectrometers, microtomes, peptide synthesizers, autoclaves, cell counters, centrifuges, fermenters, LS counters, microplate readers, pilot plant equipment, RIA analyzers, and the like; Analytical products including atomic absorption, DNA extractors, DNA synthesizers, flow cyometers, freeze dryers, gamma counters, HPLC, mass spectrometers, microtomes, peptide synthesizers, autoclaves, cell counters, centrifuges, fermenters, LS counters, microplate readers, RIA analyzers, and the like; and General Laboratory Medical products including chemistry analyzers, coag analyzers, DNA extractors, DNA synthesizers, electrolyte analyzers, flow cytometers, gamma counters, HPLC, microtomes, autoclaves, blood gas analyzers, cell counters, centrifuges, densitometers, LS counters, RIA analyzers, imaging and radiology products and the like. The latter products and equipment including those having a c.p.u. and related peripheral computer devices being exemplary, however, and other equipment may also be serviced according to the teachings of the present invention. The assembly and process of this invention can be used to analyze not only research and medical device problems, but may also include the chemicals (consumables and reagents) that are used to generate the test results for patients and which are used for quality assurance purposes.
This invention relates to video teleconferencing assemblies and processes between separated sites or distant physical locations for the purpose of providing particular services related to medical applications in present time. The invention includes a host site and a remote site and wherein specified equipment is located at each site for communication between the sites.
The host site assembly includes a computer, video and audio hardware and a communication link between the host and remote sites, such as via an internet connection. The computer preferably contains PCI bus architecture. Specific hardware and software are also used for video duplexing including a video input device, such as a camera in addition to a PCI video digitizing card. Finally, the invention requires an internet connection consisting of internet related hardware, software and services. The internet connection preferably uses an ISDN router/hub or the like, a communications link such as an analog or digital telephone line, a network providing internet connectivity, and an internet service provider. The communication link utilized for the internet connection may include ISDN, T-1000, a satellite transmission, digital and analog lines, or the like. The communication link may also include lines having combinations of these connections.
The host site further has reference materials relating to medical applications that are located and used at a remote site. The reference materials include information relating to various medical applications including medical apparatus and medical testing procedures used in medical laboratories. The medical applications are provided with visual and/or audio recognition systems that are recognized and analyzed at the host site.
The remote site assembly includes a computer, video and audio hardware and an internet connection. Preferably, the remote site assembly is portable to enable setup of the assembly in proximity to the device or process that is the subject of the conferencing session. The video hardware also includes a portable video input device. The computer and internet connection is similar to and compatible with that of the host site.
The process of this invention involves the utilization of the computer assemblies located at the host and remote sites and includes a number of process steps. To conduct a video conferencing session, the host site is initially turned on and connected to the internet. The host system identifies the IP address and utilizes an operational video capture subsystem to perform video duplexing. Communication may be received in video and/or audio and carried out by informing the remote site assembly of the IP address of the receiving computer located at the remote site.
The computer assembly at the remote site includes an internet connection or the like via an ISP connection. Users may send calls to the host site's IP address by means of video and/or audio. Communication between the remote site and the host site is maintained via communication software, such as Netmeeting 2.0 or like software, for example.
The visual and/or audio recognition systems of the invention include visual indicators used in connection with medical apparatus and laboratory procedures. The visual and/or audio indicators are used to determine the status of medical applications at the remote site. For example, the visual indicators may include a plurality of colored lights, such as LED's. The visual and/or audio recognition systems may be internal or external to the medical apparatus.
These and other benefits of this invention will become clear from the following description by reference to the drawing.
FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram showing the host site and the remote site as well as the equipment utilized at the respective sites; and
FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram showing the steps utilized between the host site and remote site(s) to practice the present invention.
As shown in FIG. 1 of the drawing, a schematic diagram is set forth showing the assemblies utilized in the present invention. FIG. 1 shows the host site and the remote site connected for communication, such as via the internet. The respective sites may be located in different countries for example, whereby an operator having access to various manuals and databases is able to communicate with a technician at the remote site. The communication between the host site and the remote site may be in present time, i.e., at least 30 frames/sec., however, this communication speed is not required for purposes of this invention. For example, communication between the sites at 15 frames per/sec. has been found suitable for purposes of practicing the teachings of this invention.
The operator at the host site, in the U.S.A., for example, is able to communicate with a technician at a hospital, in either the U.S.A. or in a country outside of the U.S.A. for example, and is able to instruct the technician to diagnose and repair a particular piece of equipment, for example. Initially, a business relationship may be entered into between the respective parties by means of an agreement sent via facsimile.
For example, it is customary and important under the laws and governmental regulations of various countries that proper agreements and service procedures be followed with respect to the servicing of specified equipment. The computer assemblies of this invention may include databases having specified contracts for service orders, for example. The operator at the host site may transmit the proper documentation to the remote site for signature and subsequently have the signed agreement of service order returned to the host site so that a contractual relationship has been entered into before any substantive services are provided.
FIG. 1 further shows that the operator at the host site has available for use various equipment, manuals, references, databases and a visual recognition system for performing the various services set forth herein. For example, the operator upon seeing the equipment at the remote site may consult an equipment manual, access a database and provide service information to the technician at the remote site. The verbal and visual information exchanged between the sites may include the use of similar operational devices, teaching aids and programmed procedural techniques at the host site so that the technician at the remote site may readily see and understand the proper operational parameters of the equipment or procedure at issue.
The assembly and process of the invention include the use of a visual and/or audio recognition system. A visual recognition system is a visual signal provided by a medical application located at the remote site that indicates to a host site technician a particular problem or the general condition of the device or process. The visual signal provided is such that the host site technician can easily identify it via the video teleconferencing system. The visual recognition systems may include a light or a plurality of lights which when activated relate to a specific condition. Further, a light or plurality of lights may flash in predetermined patterns to show the status of medical equipment. The visual recognition systems also include chemical reagents which appear one color if mixed correctly or another color if incorrectly mixed. The visual recognition system may be internal or external to the apparatus to be diagnosed. An audio recognition system relates to any sound that may be generated from the equipment, i.e., a buzzer.
The present invention may also use a direct link between the medical apparatus and the portable computer assembly at the remote site so that the host site can analyze the readings/data generated from the apparatus at the remote site. For example, pH, temperature, signal input and output, voltage, flow rates and the like may be monitored directly at the host site to diagnose a piece of equipment. The latter readings and data being exemplary of data important to analyze medical equipment, however, it is within the purview of this invention to enable readings directly from medical apparatus to be input in the remote site assembly for transmission to the host site.
The assembly and process of the present invention relates to video teleconferencing which may be conducted over the internet or other communication link. The assembly of the invention includes a host site, having specified computer equipment, a remote site(s) also having specified computer equipment and a process for video teleconferencing between the respective sites.
An exemplary list of the equipment used at the host site, at the remote site and the process linking the respective sites are as follows (use of compatible or like equipment may be used in the teachings of this invention):
The computer system equipment for the host site include the following:
A desktop computer with the following features
16 MB RAM
772 MB HD
Windows compatible sound system
14″ SVGA Color Display
PCI bus architecture
ADDITIONAL VIDEO HARDWARE—Only necessary for video duplexing (receiving and sending).
For full duplexing of video (receiving and sending) the host computer system will also require the following additional video hardware:
A video input device such as a Toshiba Noteworthy Notebook CCD Camera
A PCI video digitizing card such as the Micro Video DC30
The computer system preferably includes the following Internet related hardware, software, and services:
A dedicated ISDN router/hub such as the Ascend Pipeline 75.
A standard ISDN digital telephone line (use of other communication links, as discussed above, are within the purview of this invention).
Microsoft TCP/IP network protocol configured for Internet connectivity (Explorer, Netscape or like compatible software may also be used).
An Internet Service Provider relationship (internet connection).
The computer system equipment for the remote site include the following:
A Notebook computer with the following features:
16 MB RAM
772 MB HD
Windows compatible sound system
10.4″ Active Matrix Display
2×PCMCIA Type II Expansion Slots
ADDITIONAL VIDEO HARDWARE
The computer will also use the following video hardware:
A portable video input device such as a Toshiba Noteworthy Notebook CCD Camera
A PCMCIA Type II video digitizing card such as the Toshiba Noteworthy Video Capture Card
The computer system will also use the following Internet related hardware, software and services:
36.6 band modem (minimum)
standard analog telephone line (minimum)
Microsoft remote access configured for Internet connectivity
An Internet Service Provider relationship (internet connection)
The above list of computer equipment at the host and remote sites represent minimum requirements for purposes of practicing the present invention. As is known, computer equipment, software, communication links and related devices may change rapidly and it is within the purview of this invention to utilize such computer equipment, software and related devices having added function, power and capacity.
HOST CONFIGURATION AND PROCESS STEPS
To set up a video conferencing session the host site creates the following computer environment:
1. All local computers and routers are powered on;
2. Connection to the internet is established;
3. Identifying the receiving (remote) system's IP address;
4. Initiate the video capture subsystem, as identified above (video duplexing only)
5. Execute Microsoft Netmeeting 2.0 or above or the like;
6. Turn on receive calls with video/audio; and
7. Communicate to the remote site the IP address of the receiving computer.
REMOTE SYSTEM CONFIGURATION AND PROCESS STEPS
To set up a video conferencing session the remote system creates the following computer environment:
8. The notebook or work station computer is powered on;
9. Connection to the internet via ISP connection is established;
10. Identifying the host system receiving system's IP address (as provided in step 7 above);
11. Ensure that the Notebook video capture subsystem is working correctly;
12. Execute Microsoft Netmeeting 2.0 or above or the like;
13. Turn on send calls with video/audio; and
14. In Netmeeting 2.0 or the like software initiate a communication session with the host system's IP address.
In summary, the assemblies and processes of the invention may be utilized to provide the following procedures which are often encountered in the medical equipment diagnostic field:
1. Technical and application troubleshooting;
2. Instrument installation assistance;
3. Technique monitoring and training;
4. Technical training;
5. Parts replacement assistance;
6. Instrument and parts identification;
7. Instrument performance verification;
8. Staff monitoring;
9. Client and staff counseling; and
10. Enhancement of sales and service capabilities.
Further, industrial, research and medical institutions are able to use the assemblies and processes of this invention for handling the services set forth above. The assemblies and processes can also be used to analyze not only medical device problems, but the chemicals (consumables, reagents) that are used to generate the test results for patients and quality control. It is within the purview of this invention that similar or like assemblies for the host and remote sites be usable for performing the processes of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram showing the steps utilized between the host site and the remote site(s) to practice the present invention. A typical sequence of events is as follows:
Step 1: Establish A Contractual Relationship
The Host Technical Service Center and a Remote Site having a medical application, or an intermediary of the Remote Site, engage in a contract to provide technical service with regard to the medical application. The Host Site may provide services to the Remote Site by contracting in any of four ways.
If a Remote Site wants the equipment to stay at their facility, they can lease or rent the equipment and provide their own Remote System Operator. If a Remote Site does not want the equipment to stay at their facility, the Host can provide service by either sending an independent contractor, who leases or rents the equipment, to the remote site; send the equipment to a person in the Remote Site's area that is able to provide service under a single visit contract; or send the equipment with a Host employee to the Remote Site to provide service.
Step 2: Providing the Proper Equipment
The Host Technical Service Center (Host Site) has technical personnel, service information, and an audio-visual teleconferencing system (Host System). The Remote Site obtains a portable audio-video teleconferencing system (Remote System) that can communicate with the Host System. The Remote Site may obtain a temporary Remote System, provided by the Host Technical Service Center, that can be stored at the Remote Site indefinitely.
Step 3: Initial Set-Up
The Remote Site System Operator (Remote System Operator) sets up the Remote System in close proximity to the medical application that is to be the subject of the telecommunications session and establishes a connection between the Host System and the Remote System via a communications link, preferably over the Internet.
Step 4: Verifying the Contractual Relationship
Once the Remote System is set up, the Remote System Operator confirms that a contractual relationship is in effect. This can be accomplished via telephone, facsimile, or via the audio-video telecommunications system once a communications connection is established. Host Site Personnel confirm the contract and authorize the service session to commence.
Step 5: Technical Services Provided
The Host Technician operating the Host System can provide a variety of services including: training, troubleshooting, and guidance on calibration and maintenance. These services are completed by providing instruction to the Remote Operator based upon the information available to the Host Technician at the Host Site, information conveyed from the Remote Operator and other Remote Site personnel via the linked audio-video telecommunications systems, and the Host Technician can see and hear the operation of the application via the linked audio-video telecommunications systems. Further, the Remote Site Operator can move the Remote System to give the Host Technician a different perspective which may aid the Host Technician in providing proper information to the Remote Site personnel.
Step 6: Documentation
As shown in FIG. 1, the equipment at the host site includes software. It is preferred that such software includes means to track and maintain history of the remote site and the equipment and procedures there located. As shown in FIG. 2, prior to sign off, all services that have been provided at the remote site are documented. Thus, a history and steps taken at any remote site is kept in the computer system at the host site. It is within the purview of the invention to maintain a PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspection) docket in the software at the host site so that proper maintenance and/or verification procedures are indicated. At the direction of the host site, the latter information may be sent to or maintained on the remote site computer assembly.
Step 7: Ending the Session
Once services have been provided, the Remote System Operator disconnects the communications connection. The Remote System Operator then either moves the Remote System to a new medical application for which the current Remote Site needs assistance, stores the system away at the Remote Site, or reconfigures the device to be taken with the Operator. The device may then be shipped back to the Host Site or may be kept by the Operator until the next job depending on the arrangement between the Operator and the Host Site.
In summary, the computer equipment and software equipment discussed herein are exemplary and compatible and like equipment and software may be used in the teachings of this invention. Further, the host site may be more than one in number, i.e., wherein two operators skilled in respective arts are networked to communicate with one or more remote sites. Furthermore, one or more host sites may simultaneously be linked to a plurality of remote sites i.e., to conduct a training session.
As many changes are possible to the embodiments of this invention utilizing the teachings thereof, the descriptions above, and the accompanying drawings should be interpreted in the illustrative and not the limited sense.
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|U.S. Classification||348/14.08, 348/E07.078, 370/260, 348/14.04, 348/14.09|
|Cooperative Classification||H04N7/141, H04Q2213/13333, H04Q2213/13389, H04Q2213/13337|
|Feb 8, 2006||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Oct 29, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: GMI, INC., MINNESOTA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LEVY, WILLIAM W.;REEL/FRAME:020045/0627
Effective date: 20071012
|Feb 24, 2010||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Apr 18, 2014||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Sep 5, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 12
|Sep 5, 2014||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|
Year of fee payment: 11